Netflix on the second screen

I think Netflix VP of product innovation Todd Yellin was spot on in his comments at GigaOM’s Mobilize conference yesterday. The most compelling application for the second screen is not to view supplemental content or even social engagement, it’s the use of a second screen device to search for, discover and navigate content to watch on the TV.

For one thing, it addresses an actual and common viewer need: sorting through the immense amount of video content now pouring in on consumers. The touch-driven UI of most second-screen devices also represents a vast improvement over the current D-pad driven TV remote, improving the overall consumer experience.

Most important, although not necessarily for Netflix, is that second-screen content discovery and navigation has the potential eventually to change how TV advertising is bought and sold by linking those functions to everything else our mobile devices know about us and what we do. That, in turn, has the potential to be highly disruptive to the current TV ecosystem because the most valuable data won’t be coming from a set-top box but from mobile devices. And dollars will follow the data.

Even without an advertising component, in fact, second-screen discovery and navigation will still link those functions with much richer data on user identity and behavior than Netflix can capture now.

No surprise then, that Yellin said Netflix is far more intrigued by the potential of Chromecast, the second-screen discovery and launch protocol it is backing with Google, than by elaborate supplemental apps like HBO’s bells-and-whistle app forĀ Game of Thrones.


The important step with Chromecast, Yellin said is that “there is no UI [for Chromecast] on the TV. You need to have your phone and tablet to control the TV experience.” It turns watching TV, in other words, into an entirely mobile-driven experience.